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Watch: 6 single leg exercises to shake up your routine

Belfast PT Alan Waterman says when it comes to leg training, sometimes one is better than two.

By Alan Waterman

If you've ever spent some time getting familiar with weight training in the gym, you'll recognise most of the well-known lower body exercises.

Squats, deadlifts, leg press, lunges, step-ups... All fantastic movements in their own right, but if you're anything like the majority of gym-goers, you need a little bit of variety to keep you interested, as boredom can be a real killer for training motivation.

Single-leg exercises are a fantastic way to challenge your lower body and ramp up training variety. They're tough, but they offer a whole host of benefits, including not only increased lower-body strength, but better core function and improved mobility. A triple whammy.

For some ideas as to how to add that little extra bit of variety into your next leg-training workout, check out my top six favourite single-leg exercises demonstrated in the video - and here's why they work:

1. Single-Leg Hip Thrust

There's no doubting that the Hip Thrust is one of the best booty-building glute exercises out there - it really can't be rivalled.

The single-leg variation throws a new twist into this popular movement, and is a fantastic way to offer a new challenge.

In a single-leg stance, there is extra demand for our glute to kick in on our working side to prevent the opposite hip from dropping. Part of our glute function is to work to keep the pelvis level, so we can put that to the test through this movement.

We have the added benefit of extra core engagement, which likewise will come into play to prevent us twisting throughout our reps.

Trust me when I say, bodyweight is more than enough when starting out this movement.

2. Pistol Squat

There's something pretty badass about squatting, but there's something even more badass about squatting on one leg.

The pistol squat requires a combination of mobility, co-ordination, and strength, and for those capable of it, is a fantastic addition to a lower-body workout.

Using a suspension trainer to help stabilize us during the movement allows us to get an extended range of motion, further recruiting the hamstrings and glutes as we drop beneath a 90-degree knee and hip bend. Core activation, again, is an added bonus, helping to both keep our torsos upright throughout the exercise, whilst also preventing us from twisting.

3. Landmine Bulgarian Split Squat

Many of the Landmine movements are incredibly under-utilized in training programmes, but are both highly effective and mobility-friendly.

Although the Bulgarian Split Squat is a phenomenal lower-body movement, the landmine variation places the load to the front (rather than to the side,) meaning that not only are our thighs placed under a huge demand, but our core activity goes through the roof to maintain our upright position.

The BSS is a fantastic staple in many lower-body routines, but try out the landmine variation to discover a way of making this challenging exercise even harder.

4. Front Rack Reverse Lunge

Good news for knee-pain sufferers! The reverse lunge is typically a more joint-friendly option than the more standard forward lunge, as we have a larger recruitment of the muscles through the back-side of our lower body, helping direct tension away from the working thigh and knee, and often allowing us to perform the movement pain-free.

Similar to the Landmine BSS, front-loading the weight into the racked position boosts our core involvement through a greater demand for stability of the torso.

Who wants to do crunches for ab-work anyway!?

5. Single-Leg Back Extension

The back extension offers one of the best hamstring and glute workouts out there, and, despite the name, is not one we want to feel working through the lower back (too much back involvement means not enough glute involvement!)

The single-leg variation shifts a huge demand onto the working side, while using a slight rounding of the upper back can help shift more emphasis onto our glute, and away from the lower back.

Those with pre-existing low back pain may want to avoid, but it can offer many of us a new challenge for our next leg-day.

6. Single-Leg Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl

The Hamstring Curl exercise is yet another staple in many people's lower-body training routine, but it is the machine version which is most often performed.

The Swiss Ball version gives us twice the bang for our buck, by not only working the hamstrings through bending the knees, but by also extending our hips.

By using a single leg, especially on an unstable surface, we are again required to work even harder, in order to prevent our hips from twisting throughout the duration of the movement. Talk about a challenge!

Want more ideas as to how to add variety to your training, or tips and advice to help you progress towards your goal? Check out the Facebook page for new daily content.

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